Welcome to the Winter Warm-up Blog Hop on Victoria's Pages of Romance
December 2013 saw the release of A Holiday Anthology Vol 1. And I am happy to announced that December 2014 sees the release of A Holiday Anthology Vol 2.
Both are FREE collections of short family friendly Christmas stories written by an international group of Exquisite Quills Authors and Friends, for adults who love romance stories. Each story is unique and is meant to give a sampling of the writing of that author. From contemporary to historical, the Exquisite Quills authors and friends wish you a happy holiday filled with wonderful books.
CHRISTMAS KNIGHT by Victoria Adams
STAR OF WONDER by Rose Anderson
THE KISSING BALL by E. Ayers
THE CHRISTMAS RISK by Beverley Bateman
FALLEN IN LOVE by Helena Fairfax
SNOW JOB by J.D. Faver
CHRISTMAS MIRACLE by Jennifer Garcia
HIGHLAND HOGMANAY by Romy Gemmell
ALMOST CHRISTMAS by Vonnie Hughes
THE UNEXPECTED GIFT by Susan Jaymes
SHOOTING STAR HOLIDAY EXPRESS by Gemma Juliana
THE CHRISTMAS GIFT by Jean Lamb
A FAERY'S WISH by Jane Leopold Quinn
JOYEUX NOEL by Zanna Mackenzie
GIFTS TO TREASURE by Kaye Spencer
Be sure to grab your copy of A Holiday Anthology Vol. 1 for free - http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/374815
JUST RELEASED - VOLUME 2
A tropical beach, a snowy ride home, or a little travel through time these stories will take you there. All you need is a few minutes for these short stories. These are complete stories, not teasers, and they are perfect tiny romances to put you in a holiday mood. The Exquisite Quills is proud to present to you:
THE GIFT OF TIME by Rose Anderson
FRANKIE’S WISH by Jennifer Garcia
A KISS AT MIDNIGHT by Lily Bishop
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER by Dee Ann Palmer
MARJA'S VICTORY By Barb Caffrey
CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS by Beverley Bateman
GINGERBREAD DREAMS by Victoria Adams
CHE GELIDA MANINA by M. S. Spencer
ROMANCE VALLEY by Kaye Spencer
THE CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT by Janis Susan May
TROPICAL CHRISTMAS by Gemma Juliana
A KISS AND A PROMISE by Lyndi Lamont
A COWBOY’S HOLIDAY by E. Ayers.
This collection of new stories is our gift to our readers and to new readers everywhere.
Buy Link - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/498109
Excerpt Vol 1
As Tamara leaned over the railing to peer at the Caribbean water a tear trickled down her cheek. It paused at her chin, wobbled then dropped, mixing into the briny sea. She dug a crumpled tissue out of her pocket, blew her nose, and sighed.
A toe-tingling whiff of aftershave wafted past her nose. She recognized the fragrance, wood smoke with a hint of evergreen. The intoxicating aroma belonged to the tall, dark haired, blue-eyed man she'd passed when the passengers boarded the Northern Lights cruise ship. She'd also caught a glimpse of him in the audience when she'd performed her evening's solo dance. His brilliant eyes appeared to glow.
Tam gave her head a shake. Don't be silly. Eyes don't glow.
She stuffed her tissue into her pocket and glanced at her cell phone. Her parent's text still filled the screen. Sorry we missed the boarding. Horrible snow storms. Hundreds of flights cancelled. We arrived in time to watch you sail over the edge of the earth. Our first Christmas not being together. Tears are forming. Must go. Love, Mom and Dad.
Tam's chin trembled as her eyes filled with tears. It wasn't fair. It's Christmas. Everything's supposed to be perfect at Christmas. A sigh filled her lungs and she released it with a hiccup.
"When it's such a beautiful evening—dark sky, twinkling stars, soft tropical breeze, why would anyone so beautiful be so sad?"
Tamara turned towards the sound of the voice. Her gaze met the crystal blue eyes she'd noticed in the audience. Her brain seized. Her vocal cords froze. Aware the man standing before her was waiting for an answer, Tamara managed a weak shrug and a loud sniffle. She lowered her head. Oh, great. I look a mess. All red-eyed and snotty-nosed, and he's standing there looking like a Dolce and Gabbana model. Kill. Me. Now.
She swiped at a tear with her fist. He waved a handkerchief before her. She lifted her gaze. A teasing smile crossed his lips, making her heart flutter. His bottom lip was the biteable kind—soft, full and enticing. The one you want to slide your teeth across. The handkerchief waved again.
"Uh, no thanks…thank you." She snapped herself out of the fantasy moment and fumbled through her pocket. "I have…uh...this." Glancing down, her stomach dropped at the sight of the soggy, wet, white lump in the middle of her palm.
With the tips of his thumb and index finger, he lifted the tissue from her hand and placed the immaculate, white linen handkerchief on it.
An embarrassed flush flowed from her toes to her nose. Tamara turned towards the sea. Filled with curiosity, she snuck a peek over her shoulder. He was returning from the nearest garbage bin, wiping his hands against each other as if to rid himself of something disgusting.
Tamara gritted her teeth. "Oh, this just keeps getting worse and worse."
He leaned on the railing next to her. His eyes twinkled as a puff of ocean breeze nudged a locket of hair onto his forehead. "What keeps getting worse?"
Oh, crap! I said that out loud. She held the handkerchief out to him. "I can't take it. I shouldn't even be seen with you. You're a passenger. I'm entertainment. Ship rules and all that."
He waved his hand as if to dismiss an inconsequential thought. "What's upsetting you?"
"Everything." The word popped out of her mouth.
He placed his hand on her elbow. His grip was strong, but his skin was soft. Tingles shot from her elbow throughout her body. Directing her to a bench, he settled himself and patted a spot next to him. "Please. Sit."
Tamara opened her mouth to speak. He held up a hand. "Forget the rules. At this moment we're just two people on a cruise ship, in the middle of the Caribbean, sitting on a bench under a star filled sky. Look at that." He waved his hand towards the heavens.
Her body trembled. Tears tumbled from her eyes. Tamara plopped on the bench, lifted the handkerchief to her face and blew. "Oh!" She turned. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to use it. I'll...get it cleaned."
His mouth broke into a wide grin. His eyes sparkled like the stars above her. Tamara forgot her sadness and revelled in the joy of the moment.
"Question. Your hair was long and black this evening." He slid his hand over her short, red hair.
She shrugged. "Wig. I saw you in the audience."
He lowered his gaze. "I was mesmerized by your dancing. The sensual way you moved. I felt it here." He lifted his head and rested his hand on his chest. "It felt like you were dancing just for me."
Tamara chuckled. "I almost was. The ship is only about a quarter full." She bit her bottom lip. "But, being truthful, I only saw you when I was first on stage, getting my bearings. When I dance I can't look at the audience. I pretend it's just dress rehearsal and there's no one watching me."
"I was watching you." He brushed his hand across her cheek. "And what do you mean, getting your bearings?"
Shifting in her seat, Tam leaned against the back and stretched out her legs. "I find the edges. You know, so I don't misstep and fall off. I don't want the audience to know how much of a klutz I really am."
"I would catch you." He stood, turned to face her, and held out his arms. "Let's practise. You fall off the bench and I will catch you."
Tammy slapped her hand against her mouth, giggled, and shook her head.
"No is the wrong answer." He crossed his arms. "I'm doing my best knight in shining armour impress—" He glanced down at his suit. "Change that to, I'm here in my best Armani suit doing by my Sir Lancelot impression of a brave and noble knight, willing to rescue a damsel in distress. You have to fall, so I can catch you." He thrust his arms out.
"Do it," a voice from somewhere in her head shouted.
Digging up a moment of courage, Tam stood, climbed onto the bench, and turned to face her gallant knight-wannabe. She bit back a tsunami of nervous giggles, raised her arms, and moved them in an undulating, snake-light movement. Swerving her hips in a slow figure eight pattern, she rippled the muscles up and down her belly. She took two steps to the right then slightly turned to the left. Raising the back of her hand to her forehead, she squealed in a perfect drama-queen voice, "Ooh. Catch me." Then shifted her balance and allowed herself to fall.
His arms were strong as they pulled her close to his body. Inhaling the sensual aroma of his aftershave, she rested her head against his shoulder and let a wave of serenity wash over her.
He turned his gaze to meet hers. "I feel at a moment such as this, we should be introduced. I'm S.C."
"Hello, Tamara. Lovely name."
"What does S.C. stand for? And are you going to put me down?"
"If I must." He sighed and lowered her to the bench. A steward stepped onto the deck. Tamara turned to hide, but S.C. held her elbow. "Would you like a glass of wine? Something stronger perhaps?"
"It's Christmas Eve." Her voice was a whisper. "I'd like a hot chocolate."
"With little marshmallows?"
S.C. held up two fingers. The steward disappeared back into the hallway.
Tamara sat. "Why just initials? Why not a name?"
He rubbed his finger under his nose. "Let me answer this way. Have you had any problems with the impression people have of you as a belly dancer?"
A breeze tickled her cheek, filling her nose with the warm salty scent of the sea. "Yes. People think belly dancing is the same as being a stripper. You know, because of the legend of belly dancers being harem wives who danced to seduce the sultan."
S.C. snorted. "I doubt the horny, old sultans needed much seducing. Have you been dancing long?"
"Seven—eight years. But this is my first job as a professional dancer. I'm doing this to pay off my school loans. Then I'm going to be a teacher."
The steward returned and held out a silver tray. On it rested two large mugs of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows floating on the surface. Tamara picked up hers. The steward winked and exited.
S.C. sipped his drink. "I have sort of the same problem with my job. My name is my job."
"What do you do, if you don't mind my asking?" She wiped a bit of marshmallow foam off her lip.
"I'm a craftsman and a philanthropist."
"Oh, you make things and give them away. So you're like Santa."
He lifted his mug to hers and tapped it. "Bingo."
Tamara tilted back her head and laughed.
S.C. placed his mug on the deck. "Why can't I be Santa? A little Botox, some cardio, hair colouring and a good shave."
Tamara bit her lip and looked at the ship's deck. "If you were Santa looking like…well…like you do, I'd never get any presents because my thoughts would be naughty, naughty, naughty."
"Hmmm." He rubbed his chin. "Note to self. The warm fuzzy socks Tamara was getting for Christmas change to a tiara." He released a forced yawn, stretched his arms, and draped one over her shoulders.
"Oh, that was so high school." She placed her mug on the bench, tucked her legs up, and snuggled closer to him. "I don't know why, but this feels right. Like I've known you for years."
"Well, if it's confession time, I didn't happen to find you. I spent the evening scouring the ship looking for you."
Tamara lifted her gaze to meet his. "Why?"
He leaned close. "Something deep inside told me to find you. I'd never be happy if I didn't. I don't want to be alone anymore. And at this moment, I feel as if all my wishes have been answered." He pressed his lips against hers and wrapped her in his arms.
Warmth flooded Tamara. The pain of missing her parents released from her body as she cradled herself within his arms. Soul mate was just a word romance writers used, but Tamara knew at this moment she'd found hers.
Releasing his kiss, S.C. rested his chin on her head. "Since you're the answer to my wishes, what's your wish for Christmas?"
"Well, if you really are Santa, you already know." Tamara snuggled against his shoulder. Serenity filled her as thoughts of gingerbread men and fluffy snowflakes flitted through her mind. Sleep pressed on her eyelids. She blinked, trying to fight it, but soon she drifted off, her ears filled with the sound of ha ha ha – ho ho ho…
Tamara yawned and opened her eyes. She was alone on the bench, no longer snuggled against S.C. Had it been a dream? Two empty mugs on the deck and the tingle on her lips told her the evening had been real.
The sound of footsteps caught her attention. She looked up. "O.M.G., how did you get here?" She bolted off the bench and into her mother's arms.
"We received a message to go to the airport and a helicopter flew us here. The pilot handed us this to give you."
Tamara lifted the tissue out of the gift bag, reached inside, and pulled out a glittery plastic tiara. Tied with a bright blue ribbon, the same colour as S.C.'s eyes, was a note. She unfolded it.
Sorry I couldn't be there today. Bit busy with it being Christmas. Million things to do. But I'll be back onboard tomorrow and I insist you have dinner with me. We have to discuss our future.
Pleading love as being the reason for my happiness.
Grand Prize - A $75 Amazon Gift card - that's a lot of $$ to buy Christmas books to give yourself for Christmas.
Hops With Heart
Rest of the month's highlights on Victoria's Pages of Romance
24 - Flash Fiction – Christmas Story
25 – 26 – Christmas post
28 - Weekend Writing Warriors
31 – Jan 1 – New Years Post